Discover more from Gimme Some Torah
#345: Upgrade to Repentance Plus Today!
Rambam, Hilkhot Teshuvah 2:2
Gimme Some Torah #345
Welcome to new subscriber Rabbi H.!
Good morning! So I hear you’re in the market for repentance and that you’re looking for the “best quality with the lowest level of commitment.” I’m glad you recognize that just like phones, computers, and cars, repentance features different levels of quality.
And I totally get that you want high quality repentance without too much work—who doesn’t? But as a professional repentance concierge, I encourage you to set your sights on the highest level, known as תְּשׁוּבָה גְמוּרָה (teshuvah gemurah), complete repentance. Check out these brochures. Here’s what the Rambam (bio) says about complete repentance:
[Who has reached] complete repentance? A person who confronts the same situation in which he sinned when he has the potential to commit [the sin again], and, nevertheless, abstains and does not commit it because of his repentance alone and not because of fear or a lack of strength.
The Rambam is saying that complete repentance is the kind that has been rigorously tested in the field. People who attain this state of teshuvah gemurah continue to abstain from their weakness even when they are tempted under the same circumstances as before. It’s a super cool feature that’s only available at the highest level. The Rambam now gives an example of how this works:
For example, a person engaged in illicit sexual relations with a woman. Afterwards, they met in privacy, in the same country, while his love for her and physical power still persisted, and nevertheless, he abstained and did not transgress.
If the man’s initial tryst had taken place in Canada, where the sexual laws are liberal, his repentance is complete only if he is tempted and abstains the second time in Canada or another liberal democracy.
If, however, he is tempted and abstains while touring Saudi Arabia, where the sexual laws are extremely conservative, his repentance is not considered complete because he may have refrained from sin only out of a desire to keep his head attached to his neck.
Moreover, complete repentance has a time limit. If the man’s first adulterous affair took place at an age when his libido was high, his repentance is only complete if the next temptation also takes place at an age when his natural libido is at full strength. If he waits to repent until he needs pills to function in bed, his repentance is considered to be of a lower quality.
Oh, I see here that you’re actually not eligible for complete repentance. I guess you’re just an average Joe like most of us. Oh well, no worries. Even the Rambam says that the lowest level of repentance, the kind done on one’s deathbed, is way better than none at all:
Even if he transgressed throughout his entire life and repented on the day of his death and died in repentance, all his sins are forgiven as [Ecclesiastes, op. cit.:2] continues: "Before the sun, the light, the moon, or the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain..." - This refers to the day of death. Thus, we can infer that if one remembers his Creator and repents before he dies, he is forgiven.
It’s been a pleasure serving your repentance needs. Please take my card. Oh, you think business cards are totally cringe and I should have one of those NFC watchamacallits? You think paper business cards are only for boomers? Wow, you sound just like my kids!
If all sincere efforts to repent are accepted, why should we bother trying to attain תְּשׁוּבָה גְמוּרָה (teshuvah gemurah), complete repentance?
The Rambam addressed deathbed repentance and said that it’s acceptable, albeit of lesser quality. But what do you think about jailhouse repentance? Are you inclined to believe an inmate’s repentance, or would you be more likely to think, “You’re not sad you did it, you’re sad you got caught.” Why?
If you liked this d’var Torah, tap the ❤️ icon and consider leaving a comment or buying me a coffee!